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All About Vision

Nonprescription Sunglasses

Everyone should have a good pair of sunglasses. Whether you wear prescription eyeglasses or not, sunglasses are important for every age, race and gender. While sunglasses may be considered a must-have fashion accessory, even more importantly, they play a critical role in protecting your eyes from UV (ultraviolet) and other harmful radiation from the sun. They also shield your eyes from wind, dust and debris that could cause discomfort, dryness or damage.

Sunglasses should be worn in the winter as well as the summer and should be 100% UV blocking. This doesn’t mean that you have to pay a fortune for your shades. Even cheaper brands of sunglasses are made these days with full UV protection, so take the extra time to ensure you select ones that do offer full protection from the sun’s rays.

Frame Materials

Sunglass frames are made in a wide variety of materials from plastics and acetates, to wood and natural materials to metals, such as aluminum, steel or titanium. Before you select a pair of frames, think about your lifestyle and what type of material will be most suitable for you. If you live an active lifestyle, sturdy and durable frames are a must. If you have sensitive skin, look for a pair made with hypoallergenic material that is light and fits comfortably. Make sure you select a pair that fits well, looks good and properly blocks the sun to ensure that you feel confident and comfortable when you are wearing them.

Sunglasses Shapes

Sunglasses serve as a combination of function and fashion and therefore come in a plethora of shapes and styles. Sunglasses are often larger than eyeglasses to cover more surface area and prevent sunlight from entering around the lenses. While fashion sunglasses are made in all of the latest styles from aviator to cat eyes, round, square and oversized, sports sunglasses are generally more durable and broad, often in wraparound styles that prevent sunlight from entering from the sides as well. Wrap-around frames are a good option for athletes, fishermen and bikers that spend a lot of time outdoors in the sun.

Lenses

Lenses are the most important part of any pair of sunglasses. As mentioned above, all lenses should block 100% UV rays but beyond that there are many options for sunglass lenses. Polycarbonate or trivex lenses are impact-resistant to increase safety during sports and outdoor activities. Polarized lenses help to reduce glare and are particularly helpful during activities on or near the water such as boating, fishing or beaching. Anti-glare and anti-scratch coatings are also beneficial to maintain your best vision in a variety of conditions.

For the fashion conscious there are a number of colors and reflective coatings available for sunglass lenses. It’s best to choose the lenses that allow for the most accurate color vision with the least amount of distortion to ensure they don’t obstruct clear vision.

While it’s important to choose sunglasses that you like from a style and appearance perspective, it’s also important to pay attention to comfort and fit. Here are a few tips for purchasing sunglasses that fit well for maximum comfort and sun protection:

  1. Make sure the lenses completely cover your eyes and provide extra coverage above and to the sides.
  2. The frames shouldn’t pinch at your temples or the nosepiece and should be wide enough for your face.
  3. Ensure that the frames aren’t too wide and stay in place when you move your head around.

Sunglasses for Prescription Eyeglass Users

If you wear prescription eyeglasses there are a number of options for sun protection. These options include prescription sunglasses, photochromic lenses (which turn from clear lenses to dark when you go outside), clip-ons, fitovers (which are sunglasses that go over your prescription eyewear) or wearing contact lenses with plano (non-prescription) sunglasses. Speak to your optician to determine the best option for you.

Pingueculae & Pterygia

Pingueculae and Pterygia are both benign growths that develop on the surface of the eye. While often grouped together, there are some differences in expression, symptoms, causes and treatment so here is an explanation of each condition and the differences between them.

Pinguecula

Pingueculae (pinguecula in singular) are growths that occur on the conjunctiva or the thin clear layer that covers the white part of the eye known as the sclera. They can be diagnosed on patients of any age, but tend to be more common in middle age. Pingueculae are typically yellowish in color and appear as a small, raised, sometimes triangular protrusion close to the cornea.

Causes of Pinguecula

Pinguecula occur when bumps, typically containing fat and/or calcium, form on the tissue of the conjunctiva. The exact cause of pinguecula is not known but there is a correlation between unprotected exposure to sunlight, wind, excessive dryness and dust.

Symptoms of Pinguecula

Pingueculae may have no symptoms or they can cause feelings of dryness, irritation or feeling like there is a foreign body in your eye. In more severe cases they may become itchy, inflamed, red and sore.

Treatment of Pinguecula

Often, there is no treatment necessary other than to protect the eye from the sun and other elements. If however, the pinguecula is causing discomfort or other issues, there are treatments available depending on the symptoms. Dryness, irritation and itchiness can sometimes be treated with eye drops or ointment and in cases where there is swelling, steroid eye drops along with anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed. In rare cases that the pinguecula is causing serious problems such as vision problems, untreatable discomfort or preventing blinking, or the patient is unhappy with the way it looks, it may have to be removed surgically.

Pytergia

Pytergia (pytergium in singular) are wedge-shaped growths on the surface of the cornea (the sclera), made of fibrous conjunctival tissue and containing blood vessels, which sometimes make it appear pink. Pytergia often grow out of pinguecula and tend to be more visible.

Causes of Pytergia

Like pinguecula, pytergia are believed to be caused by extended exposure to UV rays from the sun and are sometimes called “surfer’s eye”. They are more common in adults (ages 20 – 50) who live in dry, sunny climates and spend significant time outdoors. Risks increase in those who do not properly protect their eyes by using sunglasses and hats when they are outdoors.

Symptoms of Pytergia

Pytergia may occur in one or both eyes and usually grow in the corner of the eye closest to the nose in toward the cornea. Very often there are no symptoms however some people may experience dry eyes, redness, irritation, the feeling that something is in their eye and inflammation. Pytergia may also cause discomfort for contact lense wearers. If the pytergium is serious it could grow far enough into the cornea to obstruct vision or cause the cornea to change shape resulting in astigmatism.

Treatment for Pytergia

If necessary, treatment for symptoms of pytergia may be similar to those used for pytergia such as lubricating eye drops or steroidal drops or creams to reduce inflammation. Surgery is more common for pytergia because of the more obvious change in appearance and because of the potential for vision disturbances. Sometimes a conjunctival graft is performed to prevent recurrence which is when a small piece of tissue is grafted onto the area where the pytergia was removed.

Pytergia and pingueculae are often completely benign conditions but should be monitored by a doctor to ensure they do not get worse and pose a threat to vision. Nevertheless, these growths go to show how important it is to protect your eyes from the harmful UV rays of the sun.

Corneal Inlays and Onlays

Corneal inlays and onlays are corneal implants that are used to correct presbyopia, a common condition for individuals over age 40 in which the eyes have difficulty focusing on near objects. Presbyopia occurs as the lens of the eye begins to age and weaken, reducing the ability to focus on close objects without the assistance of reading glasses or another visual aid.

Corneal implants, such as inlays and onlays, offer a treatment solution to correct presbyopia as an alternative to using reading glasses or multifocals to obtain clear vision at a close range. Corneal inlays and onlays are like tiny contact lenses that are inserted into the cornea which reshape it to improve the refractive power and thereby improve near vision. Unlike corrective laser surgery such as PRK or LASIK the actual corneal tissue isn’t touched, but rather the shape of the cornea is changed by the transplanted lens.

Corneal inlays are placed in the stroma, the middle layer of the cornea (thus the name “in-lays”), while onlays are implanted closer to the surface of the cornea, under the epithelium, which is the thin outer layer of the cornea. The procedures for both inlays and outlays are relatively simple and quick, with minimal recovery.

Corneal Inlay and Onlay procedures are still in the early stages of development and with a number of clinical trials in progress, the technology should only improve in coming years.

Why are Eye Exams Important?

For both adults and children alike, eye exams are an important part of one’s general health maintenance and assessment. Your eyes should be checked regularly to ensure that you are able to see as best as possible. Regular eye health exams will also check for signs of eye disease or conditions that can affect not only your vision but your overall health. Vision and eye health is such a critical part in learning and development, therefore, we highly recommend eye exams for infants and children.

Vision Screening vs. an Eye Exam

When we recommend regular eye exams, this should not be confused with a vision screening. A vision screening is a basic test that indicates if you have difficulty seeing and require further assessment and corrective measures. It can be performed by anyone, whether it is a school nurse, a pediatrician or even a volunteer at a vision clinic. A vision screening usually only checks vision, it does not check eye health. Also, most vision screenings for kids only check for nearsightedness (when you can not see far), but what happens when the majority of children are farsighted? Most of the time many of these kids get overlooked.

A comprehensive eye exam on the other hand, can only be performed by an eye doctor as it requires special knowledge and equipment to look around and into your eye to check your eye and vision health. Such an exam can assess whether there are underlying causes for vision problems and whether there are any signs of disease which can threaten your site and the health of your eye. A comprehensive eye examination can also diagnose symptoms of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tumors, cancer, autoimmune disorders, and thyroid disorders. A comprehensive eye examination will also provide an accurate prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Eye Exams for Eye Health

Eye exams are critical because many vision threatening eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, or diabetic retinopathy have no or minimal symptoms until the disease has progressed. In these cases, early detection and treatment is essential to halting or slowing down the progression of the disease and saving eyesight. During a comprehensive eye examination, your eye doctor will be looking for initial signs of these diseases. If a problem with your eyes arises such as red eyes, eye allergies, dry eyes, eye swelling,eye pain, always seek an eye doctor as your first doctor to call since they are specifically trained to treat eye diseases.

Eye Exams and Children

If your child is having developmental delays or trouble in school there could be an underlying vision problem. Proper learning, motor development, reading, and many other skills are dependent upon not only good vision, but your eyes functioning together. Children that have problems with focusing or hand-eye coordination will often experience frustration and may exhibit behavioral problems as well. Often they don’t know that the vision they are experiencing is abnormal so they aren’t able to express that they need help. Many conditions are much easier to treat when they are caught early while the eyes are still developing, so it is important to diagnose any eye health and vision issues as early as possible.

Eye Exams Over 40

Just like the rest of our bodies, our eyes begin to weaken as we age. There are a number of common age-related eye conditions such as presbyopia, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration that can begin to affect your vision and your daily life. While some of these conditions are more of an inconvenience, others could lead to vision loss and dependency.

In addition to regular yearly eye exams, it is important to be aware of any changes in your eye health and vision. Also know your potential risk factors as well as your family ocular and medical history. Over half of the vision loss worldwide is preventable with proper treatment and care.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a leading cause of preventable vision loss and blindness in adults in the United States and Canada and the second leading cause of blindness in the World.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is not a single disease. It is actually a group of eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve due to an increase in pressure inside the eye, which is called intraocular pressure (IOP). When detected in the early stages, glaucoma can often be controlled, preventing severe vision loss and blindness. However, symptoms of noticeable vision loss often only occur once the disease has progressed. This is why glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight”. Unfortunately, once vision is lost from the disease, it usually can’t be restored.

Treatments include medication or surgery that can regulate the IOP and slow down the progression of the disease to prevent further vision loss. The type of treatment depends on the type and the cause of glaucoma.

Risk Factors

Prevention is possible only with early detection and treatment. Since symptoms are often absent, regular eye exams which include a glaucoma screening are essential, particularly for individuals at risk of the disease. While anyone can get glaucoma, the following traits put you at a higher risk:

  • Age over 60
  • Hispanic or Latino descent, Asian descent
  • African Americans over the age of 40 (glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans, 6-8 times more common than in Caucasians.)
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Diabetics
  • People with severe nearsightedness
  • Certain medications (e.g. steroids)
  • Significant eye injury (even if it occurred in childhood)

Understanding Glaucoma

Signs and Symptoms of Glaucoma: Due to a buildup of pressure in the eye, glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve which is responsible for transmitting visual information from the eye to the brain. How does glaucoma affect your vision?

Types of Glaucoma: There are a number of types of glaucoma, some more acute than others. Learn about the common types of glaucoma and the differences between them.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Glaucoma: Early detection and treatment of glaucoma are essential to stopping or slowing the disease progression and saving vision. Treatment can include medicated eye drops, pills, laser procedures and minor surgical procedures depending on the type and stage of glaucoma.

Signs and Symptoms of Glaucoma

The intraocular pressure caused by glaucoma can slowly damage the optic nerve, causing a gradual loss of vision. Vision loss begins with peripheral (side) vision, resulting in limited tunnel vision. Over time if left untreated, central vision will also be affected which will increase until it eventually causes total blindness. Unfortunately, any vision that is lost from the optic nerve damage cannot be restored.

What are the Symptoms?

Typically, glaucoma sets in without any symptoms. At the early onset of the most common type of glaucoma “open angle” glaucoma, vision remains normal and there is no pain or discomfort. This is why the disease is nicknamed the “sneak thief of sight”.

An acute type of glaucoma, called angle-closure glaucoma, can present sudden symptoms such as foggy, blurred vision, halos around lights, eye pain, headache and even nausea. This is a medical emergency and should be assessed immediately as the intraocular pressure can become extremely high and cause permanent damage within hours.

Types of Glaucoma

The primary forms of glaucoma are open-angle and narrow-angle, with open-angle being the most common type.

Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG)

POAG gradually progresses without pain or noticeable vision loss initially affecting peripheral vision. By the time visual symptoms appear, irreparable damage has usually occurred, however, the sooner treatment starts the more vision loss can be prevented. When untreated, vision loss will eventually result in total loss of side vision (or tunnel vision) and eventually total vision loss.

Normal-tension glaucoma or low-tension glaucoma

This is another form of open-angle glaucoma in which the intraocular pressure remains within the normal level. The cause of this form of glaucoma is not known, but it is believed to have something to do with insufficient blood flow to the optic nerve, causing damage. Individuals of Japanese descent, women and those with a history of vascular disease or low blood pressure are at higher risk.

Angle-closure glaucoma

Acute angle-closure glaucoma is marked by a sudden increase in eye pressure, which can cause severe pain, blurred vision, halos, nausea, and headaches. The pressure is caused by a blockage in the fluid at the front of the eye which is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately. Without prompt treatment to clear the blockage vision can be permanently lost.

Congenital glaucoma

The inherited form of the disease that is present at birth. In these cases, babies are born with a defect that slows the normal drainage of fluid out of the eye; they are usually diagnosed by the time they turn one. There are typically some noticeable symptoms such as excessive tearing, cloudiness or haziness of the eyes, large or protruding eyes or light sensitivity. Surgery is usually performed, with a very high success rate, to restore full vision.

Secondary glaucomas

Glaucoma can develop as a complication of eye surgeries, injuries or other medical conditions such as cataracts, tumors, or a condition called uveitis which causes inflammation. Uncontrolled high blood pressure or diabetes can result in another serious form called neovascular glaucoma.

Pigmentary glaucoma

A rare form of glaucoma, this occurs when pigment from the iris sheds and clogs the drainage of fluid from the eye resulting in inflammation and damage to the eye and drainage system.

Treatment of glaucoma is dependant upon the severity and type of glaucoma present.

Glaucoma Diagnosis and Treatment

Detecting Glaucoma

During a routine comprehensive eye exam to check for glaucoma, your eye doctor will dilate your eye to examine the optic nerve for signs of glaucoma and will also measure the intraocular pressure (IOP) with an instrument called a tonometer.

IOP Measurement

Tonometry involves numbing the eye with drops and then gently pressing on the surface of the eye to measure the pressure. Since your IOP can fluctuate throughout the day and glaucoma can exist without elevated IOP this is not enough to rule out the disease. If there are signs of the disease, further testing will be performed.

Visual Field Test

A visual field test is designed to detect any blind spots in your peripheral or side field of vision. You will be asked to place your head in front of a machine while looking ahead and indicate when you see a signal in your peripheral field of view.

Retina Testing

Your doctor may also measure the thickness of the cornea with an ultrasonic wave instrument in a test called pachymetry or use imaging techniques such as digital retina scanning or optical coherence tomography (OCT) to create an image of your optic nerve to look for glaucoma damage.

Treating Glaucoma

Treatment for glaucoma depends on the type and severity of the disease and can include medication such as eye drops or pills or laser or traditional surgery.

Medication

Medication and drops to lower IOP are often the first resort for controlling pressure-related glaucoma. These drops may have some uncomfortable side effects, but compliance with the treatment plan is essential for preserving vision and halting the progression of the disease.

Surgery

Surgical procedures are designed to control the flow of fluids through the eye by either decreasing the amount of fluid produced or improving the drainage. Your doctor may decide that a combination of surgery and medication will be the most effective in many cases.

Prevention

It cannot be stressed enough that the most effective treatment for glaucoma happens when the disease is detected and treated early before significant vision loss occurs. Any vision that is lost cannot be restored. This is why the best prevention is awareness by knowing your risks and taking responsibility by having your eyes examined on a regular basis.

Suggestions For Age-Related Vision Loss

Age-related vision difficulties and vision loss can be a challenge, but there are many solutions to help you cope and lessen the impact it can have on your daily life. Simple strategies from getting the right pair of glasses, to improving lighting, to purchasing some vision aids or magnifiers, can significantly help to compensate for reduced vision. Vision changes are normal with age yet it’s important to speak to your eye doctor so you know what to expect and ensure that the changes you are experiencing are normal and not a sign of a more serious eye or vision condition.

Normal age-related vision changes include reduced near vision (presbyopia), trouble seeing in dim light (due to the pupil shrinking and letting less light into the eye) and difficulty driving at night. Additionally, color vision and contrast sensitivity may be reduced. Most of these issues can be corrected with the right pair of eyeglasses to increase visual acuity and contrast and reduce glare. Improving lighting conditions within the home and office can also help. You may want to purchase some good portable lamps to brighten work spaces, especially when you are reading or performing fine motor skills such as typing, painting or sewing.

Cataracts is a common age-related condition in which vision is gradually reduced due to a clouding of the lens of the eye. When it begins to seriously affect vision, a surgical procedure to remove the lens and replace it with a clear artificial lens can be done. This procedure is extremely common and typically very successful in restoring vision.

Options for Permanent Vision Loss

Age related and other eye diseases such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy can result in permanent vision loss or blind spots. This results in a condition called low vision, in which some vision remains, but the quality is compromised. This can be devastating for many people that are used to living independently but suddenly require a lot of assistance for daily living.

Thankfully, there are many products out there to help individuals with low vision manage daily tasks without assistance and the technology is always improving.

Some examples include:

  • Hand held and stand magnifiers, some with lights included
  • Large screen televisions and computer screens
  • Phones and other devices with larger numbers or fonts
  • Lenses and shields to reduce glare on screens
  • Screen reader programs and wearable devices

The most important thing you can do to preserve your vision as you age is to schedule regular eye exams. Many vision-threatening diseases only begin to show symptoms when vision loss has already begun and may not be able to be restored. A thorough eye exam can detect early signs of disease and allow for treatment and preventative measures to reduce vision loss. As you begin to notice changes you should schedule regular exams to monitor your eyes and vision and to rule out any serious diseases that could cause irreparable vision loss.

Photophobia

All types of light, ranging from interior lighting fixtures to streetlights and to the bright rays of the sun, have the potential to cause eye discomfort or pain. Photophobia refers to this ocular sensitivity to light.

An eye irritation or infection may cause photophobia. Other culprits include albinism, migraines, recent eye surgery or a variety of vision problems. In rare incidences, a congenital disease or certain medications may increase your sensitivity to light. The retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eye, is responsible for processing images. Treatment for photophobia involves treating the underlying cause that is disturbing the retina.

With light-sensitivity, the retina sends signals to the brain that are interpreted as discomfort or pain. The level of discomfort is in direct proportion with the strength of the light source, and it doesn’t matter if the light is man-made or natural.

Signs of Photophobia

When exposed to bright light, symptoms of itching, burning, wincing and squinting may all be experienced. Excessive tear production is another sign of photophobia.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you suffer from light-sensitivity, you should schedule a consultation with your eye care professional.

People with lighter-colored eyes generally have more of a tendency towards photophobia, and intense light is likely to bother them. If you have light eyes, the lower quantity of pigment is less efficient at diffusing the light beams.

Photophobia may be temporary, or it can appear as a permanent side-effect of an underlying eye condition. The only way to treat photophobia is therefore to get to the root of the problem with a comprehensive eye exam. It’s important to mention any current medications to your eye doctor, as they may be associated with photophobia.

Surgery for Presbyopia

Presbyopia is a common age-related condition in which near vision worsens due to the hardening of the lens of our eye. It causes people to have difficulty reading and performing other tasks that require sharp and focused close vision.

Symptoms begin around the age of 40 when you begin to see people with untreated presbyopia holding books, magazines, newspapers, and menus at arm’s length in order to focus properly and avoid eye strain. Other symptoms include headaches or fatigue when trying to focus on something at close range.

Causes of Presbyopia

During our youth, the lens of our eye and the muscles that control it are flexible and soft, allowing us to focus on close objects and shift focus from close to distant objects without difficulty. As the eye ages however, both the lens and the muscle fibers begin to harden, making near vision a greater challenge.

Surgical Treatment for Presbyopia

The most common form of treatment for presbyopia is wearing reading glasses, bifocals or progressive lenses. Bifocal and multifocals are also available in contact lenses for those who prefer to be glasses-free. A third option, however, is a number of surgical procedures that allow you the freedom of correcting your near vision without the use of glasses or contact lenses.

LASIK

Monovision LASIK

Monovision is a technique that began with presbyopia-correcting contact lenses designed for individuals with presbyopia and nearsightedness or astigmatism. Each eye gets a different lens power – one lens is used in the dominant eye to correct for distance vision and the other for near vision. The eyes adapt to the two lens powers by learning to use the appropriate eye for the necessary distance power. Monovision LASIK surgery is based on the same principle of correcting each eye for a different refractive power and has shown just as high if not higher success rates than the contact lens technique. Usually, patients will try out monovision with contacts first to ensure that it works and that the eyes adapt properly.

PresbyLASIK

PresbyLASIK is a procedure that is currently available in Canada and Europe and undergoing clinical trials in the United States. As opposed to monovision LASIK, this procedure is a multifocal alternative in which different rings of refractive power are created on the cornea, similar to multifocal lenses. This provides vision correction at all distances simultaneously.

Conductive Keratoplasty (CK)

Conductive Keratoplasty uses radio waves via a hand-held instrument to mold the corneal surface to improve near vision. The procedure can be done on one eye using the monovision principle and is a good solution for those that do not need vision correction for nearsightedness or astigmatism. The effects of CK, however are not permanent and the improvement in near vision will diminish over time.

Corneal Inlays or Onlays

Corneal inlays and onlays involve surgically implanting a small lens into the eye to increase focus and near vision. The distinction between inlays and onlays is in where the lens is placed on the eye.

Refractive Lens Exchange

In refractive lens exchange the eye’s hardened lens is replaced with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL) to provide multifocal vision. This surgery is similar to and often done in conjunction with cataract surgery.

Treatment of Macular Degeneration

While there is no cure for macular degeneration, treatments do exist that can delay the progression of the disease, preserve existing vision and sometimes even improve vision loss.

Currently, there are no approved treatments to prevent or cure dry AMD, although there is evidence that indicates that certain nutritional supplements, including omega 3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin, can prevent the progression of the disease to the more advanced wet form, which can cause more severe vision loss.

There are a couple of options for treating wet AMD to slow the progression of vision loss which include medicated injections and laser therapy. These therapies are designed to stop the development of new blood vessels, to destroy existing ones and to prevent leakage into the macula – the main dangers with wet AMD.

Unfortunately, while much research continues to be conducted, currently there is no treatment and no way to fully regain vision lost by AMD. Those who have suffered significant vision loss can benefit from the many low vision devices on the market which utilize your existing vision to assist in maintaining your independence. Such devices include standing and hand-held magnifiers and telescopes and other aides that can help to improve your vision.

If you have been diagnosed with AMD, regular vision tests are essential. Close monitoring and adherence to treatment can not only prevent further vision deterioration but can sometimes even improve vision.

Contact Lens Basics

If you need vision correction for nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism, contact lenses are a popular and effective option. In the United States, approximately 20% of the population who requires vision correction wears contact lenses. Currently dating back more than 125 years, contacts are presently available in a wide variety of materials and types. As opposed to the situation years ago, nowadays almost everyone can wear contact lenses.

Eyeglasses may be an attractive way to accessorize your outfit and make a fashion statement, yet you may sometimes prefer your appearance without glasses. Contact lenses allow you to have sharp vision without eyeglasses or costly vision surgery. Another benefit of contacts is that they grant a wider field of vision than glasses. This is a major advantage when it comes to playing sports or engaging in hobbies and professions such as photography.

If you are considering wearing contact lenses, you’ll need to schedule an initial eye exam and contact lens evaluation with your eye doctor. In the United States, contacts are regarded as medical devices that require a prescription by an eye care professional (ECP). In order to determine the best lenses for you, your ECP will assess your visual condition, structure of your eye and natural tear production.

Contact lenses are categorized depending upon the following factors:

  1. Material composition
  2. How long they can be worn before you have to take them out
  3. Life span- how long they can be used before you have to toss them and grab a new pair
  4. Design of the lenses

Material Composition of Contact Lenses

There are four different types of contact lens materials:

Soft Lenses

Over 90% of contact lenses on the market today are classified as soft lenses. These ultra-comfortable, thin contacts are constructed from gel-like plastics that contain a high percentage of water. They cover the entire cornea of your eye (clear front surface) and it is typically easy to adapt to wearing them.

First introduced in 1971, soft lenses used to be made from hydrogel materials. At present, silicone hydrogel is the most widespread, popular version. They permit a higher quantity of oxygen to reach the eye, which is healthy and comfortable.

Hard, Gas Permeable Lenses

Also called GP or RGP (rigid gas permeable) lenses, these contacts are smaller and made from plastics that have no water. They often provide the advantage of more acute vision, yet it generally takes longer to adapt to wearing them.

Hybrid Lenses

The center zone of these lenses is made from rigid gas permeable lenses, and a soft lens material encircles the border. Hybrid lenses thereby provide the best of both worlds – sharp vision from the center and a soft, comfortable border.

Wearing Time for Contact Lenses

The two primary kinds of contact lenses are daily wear and extended wear. Daily wear lenses must be removed on a nightly basis, and extended wear lenses may be worn up to seven days; a few brands of extended wear lenses are approved by the FDA for monthly wear (also known as “continuous wear” lenses). Extended wear lenses are very convenient even if you always remove them before going to sleep, as they are safe and comfortable for napping. Don’t sleep in your lenses unless you’ve discussed this with your doctor, since improper wear times can lead to corneal damage.

Life Span for Contact Lenses

All contact lenses must be discarded after a specified amount of time, even if you care for them well and properly. Soft contact lenses in particular accumulate lens deposits and contamination, which raises your risk of eye infections.

  • Daily disposable lenses: the most convenient and healthiest option, these lenses are replaced after one day of wear
  • Overnight disposable lenses (kept in your eyes overnight): must be replaced after one week
  • Monthly wear lenses: these are discarded after wearing for 30 days.
  • Gas permeable contact lenses: these are more resistant to lens deposits and can last up to a year or in many cases even longer with excellent care.

Designs for Contact Lenses

Contact lenses vary depending upon the type of vision correction that is required. The most common design is spherical, which works for nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Toric lenses, which come in both soft and GP versions, possess multiple lens powers to correct astigmatism. Bifocal and multifocal lenses utilize a number of zones for different viewing needs, such as near, intermediate and far vision. They are often a good option for presbyopia. Orthokeratology (ortho-k) lenses are designed to reshape the cornea overnight, which corrects daytime vision without a need for eyeglasses or lenses.

Additional Features of Contact Lenses

Colored contacts: Lenses can be worn in color tints that enhance the natural color of your eyes or change your eye color totally. Blue eyes can be made more vibrant, or brown eyes can be altered to green.

Special-effect contacts: These lenses offer an extreme change to the color of your eyes and are generally used for costumes or theatrical effects. You can look like a zombie, an animal, or whatever you envision!

Prosthetic contacts: Disfigurations caused by disease or accidents can be masked by these colored contact lenses. With a medical orientation, prosthetic lenses are generally used to match the appearance of both eyes.

Contact Lenses that are Right for You

To identify the lenses that are ideal for your needs, you must first have a complete eye examination and contact lens evaluation performed by your eye doctor. Your ocular health will be inspected and detailed measurements of your eyes will be taken. Trial lenses will be inserted to check for the best possible and most comfortable fit and vision

After your initial fitting, follow-up visits for contact lenses are important. Your eye doctor will check that the fit is right and that no complications are developing. Your tolerance to contact lenses will be assessed. Sometimes a change in the fit or type of lens is necessary.

Your contact lens prescription will be issued after the fitting process is complete.

Proper Care and Handling of Contact Lenses

It is relatively simple to care for contact lenses. A single, multi-purpose lens solution is generally all that’s required for cleaning, disinfecting and storing your lenses. With daily disposables, routine care is totally eliminated and you can enjoy the feeling of a brand new fresh clean lens every day.

Your eye doctor or contact lens technician will instruct you how to take care of your contact lenses before you leave the office.

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